Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Mines funded ex hacienda

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A 15th-century gilded sculptural altar from Spain covers one wall of a chapel at the Ex Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera on the outskirts of Guanajuato toward Marfil. Enriched by his family’s mining interests, Captain Gabriel de Barrera built a compound of haciendas and gardens at the end of the 17th century.

In addition to the main house were chapels, stables, aqueducts, chapels and housing for laborers. While some of remaining tall rock walls are now roofless, the main casa was turned into a house museum in 1979.

Wandering the landscaped grounds leaves little doubt the ex hacienda is now a popular spot for destination weddings.

Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Basilica of the City’s Patron Saint

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No matter from what direction one approaches, the rich hues of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato make it stand out against the city’s blue skies. Built between 1671 and 1696, the church houses an Andulusian statue of the Virgin and Child encased in glass on its altar.

The statue was a gift from King Felipe II (1527-1598) of Spain presented to the city in 1557 in recognition of all the riches sent from the mines to enrich the crown. The Virgin represents the city’s patron saint and is believed to be the oldest image of the Virgin sent to the Americas. Along the way, her scepter was replaced with a rose, particularly appropriate as the basilica fronts the Plaza de la Paz.

 

Tucked around the images and statues of the saints inside are reminders of the prayers of those who visit. A silver arm or leg left in hope of a mended limb. A heart milagro for assistance for an organ beginning to falter with age or a young heart broken. Photos of babies in need of cures. Ribbons of wishes for the safe return of family members who have crossed the border to seek work in el norte.

Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Tin ex votos replaced by more ephemeral thanks

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A hunt to view walls of ex votos painted on tin thanking El Senor de Villaseca for a multitude of miracles sent us to the Templo of Cata near a silver mine on the outskirts of Guanajuato. The Baroque-style church dates from the 1700s.

A mass for a small gathering of the faithful was underway when we arrived, so we waited in hopes of taking photos. But, unlike any service I have ever attended, when the elderly priest was assisted in leaving the altar, there was no stampede for the exits. Most of the parishioners remained in their pews, patiently waiting turns to kneel before the olive-skinned figure of Jesus on the cross – known as El Trigueno – to murmur their requests for assistance.

Fading bridal bouquets hang on the bannister leading to a small chapel tucked away upstairs near the front of the church. Our friend Claudio from Queretaro recalls the walls inside as covered with the testimonies of miners and their families. While Richard Ferguson on MexConnect reported tin ex votos were stacked 20-feet high on the walls in 1996, alas, they have disappeared.

Undeterred by the removal of the earlier ex votos, people whose prayers have been answered continue to leave their expressions of gratitude on hundreds of sheets of paper tacked up in this chapel. As the walls are covered by these more ephemeral offerings, older ones are unpinned, fluttering down to the floor.

Bouquets are not the only wedding souvenirs found here. At the base of one of the walls, wedding gowns lie crumpled in heaps. Claudio believes these are left behind by brides to express their sincere hopes for long and happy marriages.

Again, we have no snapshots of these or the chapel. We did not want to intrude upon the earnest prayers of those inside.